The Kingdoms of Heaven
European Christians carved out a home in the sands of the Middle East
The continuation of the Roman Empire in the east, this powerful empire had a tepid relationship with the Christian west. Although mutual military expeditions were common, the sacking of its capital Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade was the Empire’s death blow.
Claiming rulership from Fatima, the prophet Muhammad’s daughter, the Fatimids ruled Egypt during the time of the First Crusade. Although they ruled a rich and fertile land the Caliphate was wracked by rebellion and division in the 11th and 12th centuries which saw the Caliphate fall to Saladin and the rise of Ayyubid dynasty.
An old enemy to Byzantium and a new foe for Latin Christendom, the Turks’ empire was a powerful threat to Christendom in the holy land. It was Turkish aggression against the Eastern Roman Empire that prompted Emperor Alexios to ask the Catholic church for military aid, helping to birth the crusader movement.
The objective of the crusaders and sacred place for almost all of the population of the holy land. The sack of Jerusalem by the crusaders in 1099, an orgy of bloodshed and vented frustrations, all but wiped out the Muslim and Jewish population of the city at the time.
County of Edessa
The first crusader state to be set up, Edessa served as a barrier between the Seljuk empires of Anatolia and Mesopotamia. It was also the first state to fall and did so in 1144, although it was not considered strategically important enough to recapture.
Once the third city of the Roman Empire, Antioch and the land surrounding it would be a continuous point of contention between the kings of Jerusalem and the Byzantine Empire, who believed the city should belong to them.